Originally published in Body Sense magazine, Spring/Summer 2006. Copyright 2006. Associated Bodywork and Massage Professionals. All rights reserved.Q. I'm a relative newcomer to massage and I've been trying to describe the experience to my friends. Why do I feel so good after a massage?A.
As a massage therapist, author, and consumer of bodywork, Mary Kathleen Rose of Longmont, Colo., took this question to heart.
"I walk into the session thinking, 'I'm really too busy to take this time. I've got to make those phone calls, schedule the next meeting, write that article, do the laundry, clean my house, and run a few errands. Oh, but my shoulders do hurt, my back aches, and I didn't get enough sleep last night!' An hour later, walking in slow motion, I come out of the massage therapist's office. I notice the smell of fresh air and the warmth of sunshine on my face. 'Maybe I'll just go for a little walk. I'll get back to work soon enough,' I say.
"Massage provides me an opportunity to take a break from the stresses of life and relax in the caring hands of a competent therapist. With just the right amount of pressure and skillful manipulation, patterns of tension are released in overworked muscles, fascia is loosened in areas of strain, and lymph is encouraged in its circulation. These effects on the tissues give rise to sensations of pleasure, creating a new experience in my body. I can only begin to imagine the complex of effects on the neurochemical system of the body, as touch receptors carry messages to the brain for interpretation, influencing brain wave patterns and a myriad of hormonal responses.
"While the physiology may be complex, the value of the human interaction is simple. Someone just treated me with respect and care, listened to me without judging me, and touched me with the authority born of her training and experience. It's no wonder we feel so good after a massage."